Hiring a Contractor… What you Should Know!

Finding a good general contractor that will be able to build your project in the time frame and budget that you would like is important.  In order to find a good general contractor, there are many sources for information, however your architect is the best person to consult for recommendations. Next ask friends and family to see who has built a similar project and who they used.  I stress similar project because you do not want the guy that does tile work to be the general contractor for your new house. Find someone that is a general contractor to fill that role.  Look online for contractors in your area or ask at the local lumberyard for names of people that they deal with on a regular basis. You can also check out websites such as NARI – National Association of the Remodeling Industry or the NAHB – The National Association of Home Builders.

Consider these questions when interviewing potential contractors. 

  • Have you built a project similar to this before and can I see pictures of those projects?
  • Who will be running my job on a day to day basis?
  • How do you bill for your services?
  • Do you have references from current and past jobs that I can speak to? (At least 3 recent projects)
  • How long have you been running this company or how long has this company been around?
  • How many projects do you have going on at one time?
  • How long do you expect this project to take?
Make sure the contractor you select is licensed and insured.  Contact your state Department of Consumer Affairs to see what licenses are required and then verify that your contractor has those licenses in current standing.  Obtain a copy of their insurance coverage to be sure you will be covered if there is a problem once construction begins.  Understand the contract and the process before proceeding.
This first group of questions can be an over the phone interview designed to see how you feel about the company initially. Pay close attention to how responsive they are in this phase. How quickly do they respond to emails or phone calls, are they on time when you schedule meetings? Are they friendly and courteous? If you don’t have a good feeling at this point in the relationship, I suggest you find someone else to interview.
Your next step is the face to face interview. Depending upon your project, you may want to meet at your house, for a remodel, or their office, for a new home. The purpose of this meeting is to see how you connect, look at work they have done and talk about your project.
If you already have your architectural plans at this point, then you can review those and discuss rough pricing to get some guidelines and make sure your project is reasonable. Meet with 3 or 4 contractors to get a feel for how well they communicate with you. Clear communication and trust are essential as you will be investing a lot of time and money with this person. Ask them about your project and have them walk you through how the process will unfold, what they will do, what you will have to do, how long it will take, when you will be informed of items that you need to select and who will keep track of all of the selections that are made throughout the process. A hint here- DO NOT leave it up to your contractor to document all decisions. Have a notepad with you at all times and write things down as you make decisions.By now you should know if this is a person and a company that you would like to work with. If they are, then ask them to provide a price for your project. Ask them to break it out in a line item format, so that you can compare pricing with other proposals.When you receive pricing form your contractors, sit with them again to be sure you understand what is included in the price and what is excluded. Once you have done that, you can then fairly evaluate the different prices you have. If you received a price that is way different than the others, be wary. Most likely they have not included some items or used different materials or less skilled labor than the others.

Don’t make your decision based solely on price. You typically get what you pay for, so be you are comfortable with the person and company that you are selecting. It is worth paying more to get the company that you believe will do the best job. Trust your instincts, ask many questions and hire someone that you genuinely like!

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